348 Tasting Notes
Yum yum yummm. This is so tasty!
So, change of pace from all the W2T shengs I’ve been trying, I decided to brew up the old tea nuggets. :) Roughly 5g of nuggets in my 100ml gaiwan, boiling(ish) water. A 30sec rinse, then I gave the nuggets in the waterless gaiwan a good shake to try to loosen them a little, then another 30sec rinse. Then 20sec steep adding 10sec each time, until I got to 100sec at which point I started adding 20sec at a time. Wheee. :) Does anybody else use www.steep.it to time their tea steeping sometimes?
Anyway, this is sweet and creamy and pretty much delicious. I got a bit of cocoa 4 or 5 steeps in, but mostly this has raisin, prune, date notes for me. At one point it reminded me of a good dark fruitcake, you know, with lots of molasses and real dried fruit? It’s not overly complex, it doesn’t have a crazy texture or surprising aftertaste, I just keep drinking it as fast as I can brew it because it’s so darn tasty! Also, I might be just exhausted because I’ve had a long day, but I had to go lie down after about 6 steeps. ;)
Working through my W2T samples. :) So, the Poundcake I had yesterday was lots of big loose leaves, whereas this one is mostly just a single tightly-packed chunk, so I got a chance to use my puer pick again, yay! 5g in my 100ml gaiwan, started with a quick rinse, then 10, 15, 20, 25… etc (roughly – I’m never very exact with the timing). I boiled the water to begin with, and then just kept using it without reheating, so each steep was about 5 degrees cooler, until I got down to 80 deg or so, then heated to 90 deg after that… which actually worked pretty well.
Anyway. This tea is pretty good, but… not super interesting? I don’t know, I think I tend toward teas that are really aromatic or flavourful, and this isn’t either of those things. It is pretty nice, and I can see how it would be recommended as a good starter sheng. My favourite thing so far is how, after like 5 infusions, every time I clear my throat I get this really intense sweetness in the back of my throat. What is that? It has happened with other W2T shengs as well. Anyway, good tea but it’s not changing my life or anything. ;)
Another sample from Nicole – thanks! :)
The dry leaves are cute little black and gold snails – love it. I was in the mood for a rich, malty black tea to brew western-style, and this is pretty much hitting the spot. It’s smooth and malty, maybe a little bit smoky, but I’m not finding it overwhelming. I’m actually not getting a lot of other flavours here, and I think it could have gone for a bit of a longer first steep. Tasty, but not one I feel compelled to immediately go out and buy more of (thank goodness!).
I figured I had better try my 25g sample of this in case I feel the need to immediately buy a cake of it. (Note to self: you do NOT actually need any more tea!)
The scent of the dry leaf when I opened up the package was really remarkable – very sweet and slightly floral/vegetal. I put 5g in my 100ml gaiwan, did one quick rinse, and then steeps of 10, 15, 20, 20, 25, 30… seconds. I started out with boiling water, and then dropped down to 80-90deg water a few steeps in when it started to get a bit bitter on me.
The first infusion was really light, flavour-wise, but had a lovely texture: fresh, crisp, clean. The next few infusions developed some stronger flavours – a bit vegetal, a bit of apricot, a bit of that zingy fresh sheng flavour – but maintained that sense of airy expansiveness in my mouth/head. Once I dropped the temperature, it settled down into a sweeter flavour and thicker mouthfeel, with a sweet coating building up on the back of my throat. The body feeling for me is warm and mellow, and I’m starting to feel a bit hungry.
This is pretty tasty, but I’m not convinced I need to aquire a cake of it (thank goodness). I’ll have to try the rest of my spring 2015 samples first and see how they all compare. :)
Flavors: Apricot, Sweet, Vegetal
I have so many Golden Tips samples that I still need to try. :) I actually chose this one thinking it’s a herbal chai (since it’s close to bedtime and all) but now I see that it actually does have black tea in it. Gotta say, the tulsi and spices really do drown out the actual tea, but not in a bad way. I actually really like the combination of minty/herbal from the tulsi and warm/spicy from the rest of the spice blend. It’s well-balanced, so no one flavour is really standing out over all the rest. I’ve been drinking it steeped fairly light (2.5g in 8oz for 3min) and without any additives, but I’m curious to try stovetop-boiling with milk and sugar for a more traditional chai preparation. This is good. It’s weird, because I used to be a big fan of masala chai (back before I got seriously into tea), and I’ve lost interest in it recently, but I’m looking forward to trying some of these Golden Tips blend.
I’ve suddenly lost the ability to describe the flavour of black teas, weird. This is a lovely golden bud tea, of which I was lucky to get a sample from Nicole. I put the whole 3g sample in my 100ml gaiwan. So far I’ve done two steepings, of 30 and 40 seconds. The wet leaves have a spicy, baked-good scent that is amazing, but unfortunately not really coming out in the tea liquor, which I suspect is because I’m not yet brewing it correctly. Ok, I just tried a longer, 60sec steep. The liquor is an amber/gold colour, like whiskey. The flavour is a bit earthy and sweet, like I expect from a dian hong, but there’s an acidity that I’m not thrilled with. Just tried another 30sec steep, and the flavour is smoother, but not as aromatic. Hmm, I’ll try a few more steeps but this tea and I don’t seem to be connecting today. Oh well, can’t win ’em all. :) Happy to have had a chance to try it, though!
You guys, I went to put away the Basics Set and grab something else from my latest White2Tea purchase to try. I looked at the white whale and thought, “yeah, maybe that one”. And then I looked a little closer and saw that in the plastic ziplock along with it was a puer pick! Woohoo, I have a puer pick now! What a thoughtful add-on! (my order must have had “newbie” written all over it) Anyhow, it was definitely necessary, because this brick is tightly compressed. So yay, I was able to chip off 6g for my gaiwan, did two rinses (one quick, one longer, hoping to get the tea chunks to open up a bit), then started with a 5-10sec steep. I found this one actually got intense and a little bitter quite quickly, so I ended up doing a bunch of 20sec steeps in a row rather than going longer with each one, which seemed to help. I might go with less tea next time.
This is a nice aged sheng, with lots of musty and earthy flavours and a cooling bitterness in the late sip / aftertaste that I presume is the camphor. It’s kind of like… taking a walk in the woods after a rainfall… while chewing on pine needles. But in a good way. ;) It’s also fairly smooth, full-bodied, and it mellows out into a bit of sweetness in later steeps. I’m writing this from memory for a tea I mostly drank yesterday, so this review is a bit lacking in detail. I’m glad I have a brick of it, and look forward to giving it another try!
But… how do I store this? The packaging doesn’t really lend itself to rewrapping as well as the cakes do. I currently have it semi-rewrapped and sealed up in the ziplock it arrived in, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a respectful way to store aged sheng. So Steepster, help me out, what should I do? :)
The last of the Basics set! I finally get to try an aged sheng. :) This cake has the darkest leaves so far, and the leaves (both dry and wet) have a musty aroma so you can definitely tell it’s aged. The tea brews up darker in colour than the others, more amber than yellow/gold. That musty note is definitely there – not the wet earth / forest floor impression that I get from shu puer, but something that reminds me more of old books, like the smell of a second hand bookstore. In early steeps, there are hints of that fresh zingy quality from the fresh sheng, but muted and smoothed out. It has a definite coating sensation in the mouth and throat, but that is also smoother and gentler than in the other cakes. It’s a bit warming in the stomach, and makes me feels relaxed. In later steeps, the bitterness and astringency ramps up, more similar to the younger teas, but the musty, aged quality is still there. There is a bit of sweetness or something in the aftertaste, but I don’t really get any fruitiness from this one at all. The back of my throat feels really coated, but my cheeks don’t feel all dried out from the astringency. I’m starting to get that mineral flavour that I remember from later steepings of the fresh sheng as well. Neat.
In conclusion, this “intro to puer” tasting set has been super interesting and lots of fun. I definitely recommend it for any puer beginners out there. :)
Flavors: Grass, Mineral, Musty, Sweet
Tea #3 in the basics set. This was definitely the most tightly-compressed of all the cakes. I don’t have a puer pick, so I’ve been using the probe from a digital meat thermometer, which worked reasonably well for the other ones but had real difficulty with this one. I’m not sure if it was due to my technique or the cake composition or both, but most of what I got off this one was little broken leaf fragments. Anyway, same as the others: 6g, boiling water, steeps of (very roughly) 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. seconds.
I found this one to be less aromatic than the Autumn one I tried yesterday, and the flavour was mostly a dried grass, freshly-cut hay sort of thing. In early steeps there was a fruitiness in the aftertaste, but that disappeared pretty quickly. In later steeps the bitterness and astringency came out more. This reminded me more of the Spring than the Autumn cake, but a bit less intense. I lost interest in it more quickly than I did the other two – maybe because the novelty factor of fresh sheng puer is wearing off, or maybe these older leaves are legitimately less interesting to drink.
Flavors: Bitter, Freshly Cut Grass, Hay
Day #2 of my White 2 Tea Basics adventure, and I tried the 2014 Autumn. 6g in the gaiwan, 2 quick rinses, steeps of (very) roughly 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc… seconds. I was a bit surprised that it was actually quite different from the 2015 Spring. The early steeps were more aromatic and fruity, less zingy, and tasted quite strongly of stewed dried apricots. I was reading a review recently that mentioned an apricot flavour in a sheng puer and I remember thinking “apricot eh? I wonder if I would even be able to identify that… I haven’t had an apricot in ages”. The answer is apparently, hell yes. Anyway, I found this one to be a bit easier to drink, especially with boiling water, though it was also lovely at 90deg. Middle steeps lost the fruitiness and brought in some more bitterness and astringency, and in later steeps it faded into the same kind of smooth minerality – all this was quite similar to the Spring tea I tried yesterday. Whee! Looking forward to trying the Huang Pian tomorrow. :)
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Fruity, Mineral